Agent on Coby Mayo: "Now you ask teams and they’d all take him in the first round"

Coby Mayo isn’t bothered or distracted by the passing traffic. By the Orioles prospects in the fast lane and the attention that's tailgating them.

Prior to the farm system’s rise to a No. 1 ranking, Mayo would have been the center of attention and recipient of the organization’s top player award. Rarely is a hitter ignored who slashes .290/.410/.564 at the two highest levels with 45 doubles, three triples, 29 home runs and 99 RBIs in 140 games.

No one had more doubles, homers or RBIs or a higher slugging percentage and OPS, and his 93 walks ranked second behind Jackson Holliday, who won the award and is the top prospect in baseball.

Holliday could make the team out of spring training despite turning 20 this month and appearing in only 18 regular season games with Triple-A Norfolk. Mayo is 22 and he played in 62, but he’s likely to return until a spot opens for him.

Patience and understanding are two other tools that rate highly on any scale.

“I can tell you, it never got to him, at least from conversations that we had, and we probably talked three or four times a week,” said agent Roger Tomas of MVP Sports Group. “He never said, ‘Why am I still in Double-A? Why are guys getting moved up faster than me? Why is Jackson Holliday getting treated a certain way.’ I don’t know if he cares or he doesn’t, but if he does, you’ll never see it out of him.”

Tomas has worked for MVP Sports Group for the last 14 years, including when it was Icon Sports Group before a rebranding in 2012. He’s known Mayo since the third baseman was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., before the Orioles drafted him in the fourth round in 2020.

“A lot of these kids, it’s very obvious to see abilities,” said Tomas, whose agency also represents Orioles starter Dean Kremer. “He’s always been a big, big kid with a lot of power, and he always performed pretty well. I think what probably impressed me the most about him as he’s gotten older is just his ability to understand what he needs to do for the adjustments he needs to make in order for him to be the most complete player that he wants to be.

“He doesn’t want to be known as just a power hitter. He doesn’t want to be known as just a slugger. He wants to be known as an overall complete player. And I say this because we’ve had so many conversations about it. In high school the big reason why he didn’t go in the first round was because there was swing-and-miss there, right? And I know that was something that ate him up. And I can tell you through his analytics over the years, that has gotten better, his swing decisions have gotten better. The plate discipline, the approach. And he gives all the credit to the organization for helping him with that.

“At the same time, you need to put in the effort on your end to understand, ‘I could drop 30 homers but if I’m a .220 guy, that’s not going to equate to who I want to be as an overall player.’”

Tomas also reps Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas, who finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting. He sees similarities between the two players.

“These guys, they’re students of the game, they’re students of hitting, and they’re doing everything they can off the field to help themselves, understanding that their abilities obviously have taken them to a certain point,” Tomas said. “They want more out of themselves.”

Mayo grew up fast. Tragic events can do that to a kid. Forcing an acceleration through the pain and the tears.

A gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14, 2018 and killed 14 of Mayo’s classmates and three faculty members and injured 17 others, the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. On Nov. 2, 2022, former student Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life without parole rather than receiving a death sentence in accordance with a Florida law requiring the court not to depart from the jury's recommendation.

“That day, I look back on it, and I think to myself, ‘I’m so lucky to be here today,'” Mayo said during his video conference call after the draft, wearing a cap with #MSDSTRONG stitched on the front. “I play for those people because they can’t play. They don’t have voices. They couldn’t live what they wanted to do, and I can.”

“I would say this, I’m a big believer that unless you’ve gone through it yourself, and we don’t want anybody to go through that, it’s very hard to understand the impact that something like that has done,” Tomas said last week. “Obviously, it being his school, he was there, he knew many of the victims, and all that stuff does take not only a toll on you, but helps you understand life and the opportunity that he has. He’s talked about it in different interviews, where that particular incident made him realize that life is short and we have no idea what tomorrow or next month or next year has for us, so I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity that I have right now and make the best of it.

“I feel like I’ve always seen him this way. He’s a huge family guy. Huge, huge family guy. They do a lot of stuff together. They’re all boys. He has three other brothers, and they do everything together. And I think that’s also helped him feel like he’s got a great support system. Everybody’s into sports, they all go see him at different times throughout the year, and I know he really, really likes stuff like that.”

Tomas said he hasn’t talked to Mayo about the shooting. The subject came up plenty in the ensuing years, especially after the draft. He felt like there was nothing for him to say.

“I never really asked him how it affected him or how he felt afterwards or anything like that,” Tomas said. “I’ve read or see all the interviews that he’s done, and it’s pretty consistent with the same type of answers that he gives. The impact is definitely there, but I think it’s a combination of how he was raised, the environment that he’s always been in, and just understanding how difficult it is to get to the big leagues.”

That last part has been discussed - not just reaching the majors, but staying there and benefiting from the perks.

“Getting to arbitration, getting to free agency, and especially when you’re on the hitting side,” Tomas said. “The game is about adjusting, and that’s what really has impressed me the most. He’s done this on his own. He hasn’t asked me, ‘Hey, put me in contact with such and such,' or anything like that. But he does give a ton of credit to the organization and the way that they incorporate the analytics. And they incorporate it in the right way.

“They have people who explain it to these players and they truly understand what their data is really showing. All these hitting coaches, they all know about hitting, but the really good ones understand how to explain it, and that’s what Baltimore does a really good job of when it comes to the players and analytics and how to make them better.”

The team’s commitment to Mayo was evident right away with a $1.75 million signing bonus that was way above slot value in the fourth round. A real steal, as it turns out, with MLB Pipeline ranking him as the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect and the 27th in baseball.

“I wasn’t too shocked,” Tomas said. “He had three or four teams that really liked him in that range. It’s funny, though. Even a year later – obviously everybody would say it now – I had probably a handful of teams that said, ‘We screwed up.’ Now you ask teams and they’d all take him in the first round, of course, but it’s something that you can’t predict.

“Teams, just like us, we try to focus on these kids’ work ethic and their ability to make adjustments and their desire to be great, because we understand through all these years that putting up numbers is difficult, being consistent is massively difficult. And I wouldn’t say it’s difficult from a physical standpoint. It’s difficult from a mental standpoint, and he’s always had that ability to tune things out.

“I know even now, he’ll have a few bad games or even a bad week, and the kid’s super even keel, which is a big thing. I can tell you, we represent some big leaguers who are very, very, very successful, and they have one or two bad games and they are going off the deep end and they need to revamp things and switch things. Sometimes, that works for guys, but in reality, I definitely believe in, hey, you have a routine, you stick to your routine. You make adjustments along the way, of course, but it’s not something that just because you have a bad couple days or week that you need to go crazy and completely change everything.”

The power and arm grade highly on the scouting scale, the latter being a 70 with Pipeline. But the intangibles also work in Mayo’s favor. A reason why his ceiling also is so high.

“The biggest thing we’re looking at that kind of gives it away is the ability to make adjustments just this year between Double-A and Triple-A,” Tomas said. “The one good thing, too, about Coby is he’s super unselfish when it comes to his teammates, understanding that so many good, young prospects are in that organization. And defensively, where he lines up.

“He takes a lot of pride in sticking at third base but whether it’s first base, whether it’s right field, whether it’s a combination, kind of like a hybrid role, especially early on in his career, hopefully as soon as next year to help the team, he’s willing to do whatever. He’s got the mindset of, I just want to get there, I want to stay, I want to contribute, I want to win, and then everything else will take care of itself.”

The day will come when Mayo can become teammates again with the prospects who made their major league debuts.

When he can merge into their lanes.

“I’ve spent a lot of time at that house with the family and they feel like, and maybe it’s some of the examples I’ve given them, they feel like everything is going according to plan,” Tomas said.

“It’s like, we don’t want to rush him and we certainly think he’s been moved accordingly, so we’re good, we’re happy."

Coming up Monday: A trainer details his workouts with Mayo and shares impressions made by the infielder.

Note: The Orioles announced a batch of minor league signings, most of them reported earlier - catchers Michael Pérez and David Bañuelos, right-handers Wandisson Charles, Nathan Webb and Albert Suarez, and left-handers Luis Gonzalez and Jakob Hernandez.

Pérez has totaled 202 major league games in six seasons with the Rays, Pirates and Mets. He’s a career .179/.248/.306 hitter who’s thrown out 29 percent of runners attempting to steal.

Pérez, Bañuelos and Maverick Handley could begin the 2024 season with Norfolk.

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